February 14th to 16th, 2020
Video gamers, spiritual seekers, and quantum physicists are discovering a common ground in the emerging research around Virtual Reality. The simulation hypothesis, as articulated by Rizwan Virk, permits a fruitful encounter of Vedānta, Kashmir Shaivism and Yogācāra Buddhism with current AI, physics, digital gaming, and cosmology. In Virk’s model of simulation, the basis of reality is seen as information, which dovetails coherently with the cosmologies of many Eastern traditions. Access to this reality is obscured (to varying degrees) by the perception of “simulated” worlds. Whether it is Maya in Advaita Vedanta, Prakasha/Vimarsha in Kashmir Shaivism, the notion of Lila (divine play), or other familiar concepts, that Reality is in some important sense “Virtual” extends back into ancient understandings.
Coupled with this understanding of a malleable virtual world is the role of “virtual” techniques of visualization. Tibetan dream yoga and mandalas, Hindu yantras and chakras – visualization has been leveraged for centuries in schools of Eastern mysticism and is today used in many psychological disciplines and methods, including meditation, Freudian and Jungian Psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, dream work, Gestalt therapy, psychodrama, psychosynthesis, autogenic training, and many others.
Philosophers, healers, and sages in many ancient cultures used visualization as a tool for growth and rebirth, to “reveal our hidden truths” and to allow us to experience personal connections to “cosmic consciousness.” Whether or not modern virtual reality will be leveraged in the service of truth, healing and liberation is still a story yet to be written. Virtual reality experiences and visualization practices can either wake us up to the nature of Reality or pull us further into delusion. How should we approach these modern explorations of ancient understandings? How do we ensure they serve the awakening process?
This conference, as with all programming at Embodied Philosophy, will seek to strike a balance between scholarship and practice. Presenters will link the hypothesis of virtual reality simulation to deep mystical experience, especially as probed and developed in Indian and Tibetan religious and philosophical systems. Furthermore, implications of visualization techniques and VR technologies for therapy and healing will be discussed.
Join us for this exciting online conference exploring virtual embodiment!
You'll Learn About:
Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo
Dr. Isa Gucciardi
Dr. Michael R. Heim
Dr. Amit Goswami
Dr. Kenneth Rose
Dr. Andrew Holecek
Dr. Jordan Quaglia
with Swami Sarvapriyananda
Advaita Vedanta is the classic and paradigmatic school of nondual philosophy. Put simply, the essential teaching is 'The Absolute (Brahman) is the only reality, the world (jagat) is an appearance (of that nondual Absolute) and the sentient being (jiva) is none other than the nondual Absolute'. The world of our daily experience is said to be a virtual reality within the field of consciousness. Realizing this will set us free from suffering - which is the goal of philosophy. This realization is attained through philosophical enquiry. There are various modes of such an enquiry, one of which is the 'Discernment of the Seer and the Seen' (Drg Drsya Viveka).
with Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo
Since the mid-1990s, a significant scientific literature has evolved regarding the outcomes from the use of what we now refer to as Clinical Virtual Reality (VR). This use of VR simulation technology has produced encouraging results when applied to address cognitive, psychological, motor, and functional impairments across a wide range of clinical health conditions. This presentation addresses the question, “Is Clinical VR Ready for Primetime?” After a brief description of the various forms of VR technology, I will discuss the trajectory of Clinical VR over the last 20 years and summarize the basic assets that VR offers for creating clinical applications. The discussion then addresses the question of readiness in terms of the theoretical basis for Clinical VR assets, the research to date, the pragmatic factors regarding availability, usability, and costs of Clinical VR content/systems. This will be presented in the context of descriptions and video examples of applications addressing Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Addiction, Depression, Pain Management, Stroke, TBI, ADHD, Autism, and Virtual Human applications for clinical training and patient facing healthcare support. Ethical issues for the safe use of VR with clinical populations will then be detailed. While there is still much research needed to advance the science in this area, I will make the case that Clinical VR applications are in fact “ready for primetime” and will soon become indispensable tools in the toolbox of healthcare researchers and practitioners and will grow in relevance and popularity in the near future as the technology continues to evolve.
with Sarah Hill
In this talk by Sarah Hill, CEO of Healium and StoryUP Studios, we will learn about the therapeutic benefits individuals experience from the use of virtual and augmented reality technology. Sarah shows us how users of these technologies can see and interact with their emotions, heart rate, and brain wave patterns to create virtual experiences that have powerful effects on the nervous system. Individuals are able to significantly reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and increase feelings of calm and positivity as a result of their virtual and augmented reality experiences.
with Rizwan Virk
Riz Virk explores the intersection of religions, consciousness, quantum physics and computer science in this talk about one of the most consequential questions of our time: Do we live inside a computer simulation? Using examples from science fiction, Virk explores how today's virtual reality could progress to the "simulation point", at which point our simulations will be indistinguishable from physical reality. He then compares this simulation to the idea of Maya, reincarnation, and karma in Eastern religious traditions, and recording angels and the Scroll of Deeds. He also explores how synchronicity, dreams and unexplained phenomena like OBE's and remote viewing can be explained in the simulation hypothesis. to learn more, visit his website at www.zenentrepreneur.com.
with Dr. Michael R. Heim
Virtual Reality (VR) technology offers a tool for the spiritual journey. A headset with-hands-control like the Oculus Quest (Facebook) can provide valuable personal feedback. Applying VR to mystical awareness, however, requires more than playing video games or plunging into immersive experiences. Some practical steps are needed to obtain meditative results. The right mindful procedures can create a meta game that deepens VR experience so that it illuminates the primary world. A session in VR Quest can provide aerobic exercises like virtual racketball, table tennis, or the dance club. Immersion can make a person sweat and feel physically more alive. But on a meta-level, such activities can also produce the VR zombie, someone who takes the virtual world at “face value,” as a substitute for conventional activities. A more mindful approach can deploy the gear for the mystic quest. This talk focuses on procedures for enhancing our being-in the-world through VR. The approach derives from Existential Phenomenology. It aims specifically at awareness of “worldhood” (Heidegger’s “Bewandtnis Zusammenhang”). Entering into and engaging multiple virtual worlds can raise awareness to a meta level, providing a feeling of what it means to be “in a world as such.” Similar to lucid dreaming, the awareness of being-in-a world intensifies mindful personal presence. Such awareness goes beyond acknowledging a “multiverse” and focuses on fuller presence in the primary world. The talk describes how 21st century VR can advance the mystic quest.
with Dr. Kenneth Rose
At the point where the visionary yoga-based cosmologies of Hinduism and Buddhism converge with AI, quantum physics, and digital gaming, the Simulation Hypothesis claims that we live in a vast and realistic video game without knowing it! Multiple philosophies and religions have taught that reality is not what is appears to our senses and mind, so the idea of simulated or virtual reality is longstanding, as modeled in Plato’s cave, Descartes’ evil demon, “The Matrix,” Hinduism’s māyā doctrine, Buddhism’s two-truth theory, and Zhuang-tzu’s dreaming butterfly. If we are living in a mesmerizing simulation controlled by beings greater than us but unknown by us, can we develop a powerful video game to break through to reality? Perhaps, but we would remain dependent upon machinery to awaken—like always needing a meditation app to meditate. But humanity’s mystical traditions teach that we are master simulators of our own experience—with or without machinery—and that it is our choice to sleep or to wake up. In my presentation, I will unfold the classic Panchakosha—or Five Coverings—meditation practice from the Upaniṣads, which demonstrates how we construct and how we can dismantle the main lenses that conceal our inborn standpoint of natural enlightenment.
with Joakim Vindenes
In his multi-volume Technics and Time, Philosopher Bernhard Stiegler argues that human beings and technology are intrinsically linked together in a co-constitutive relationship. According to Stiegler, we invent ourselves through technology and through this process we constitute the conventions that make us who we are; time, society and culture. For Stiegler, technology and humans are fundamentally united – and technology is equally as much something in us as it is something outside us. Thus, as technology is an expression of our selves it is equally an existential problem, as we are designing our becoming. In this talk, I wish to extend this thought to our current VR technologies: what is it in ourselves that VR is symptomatic of? What can VR teach us about our selves? And if what we create is a question of who we want to be — what sort of virtual worlds should we wish to design? Through the talk, I will discuss humanity’s fondness for illusion, drama, art, representation and play in how these aspects of ourselves have their technological culmination in VR. Having discussed Continental philosophy of technology, we will continue discussing VR as intrinsically human, through the Hindu notion of Maya – Illusion. We discuss the perspective of VR as a microcosm and a crystallization of our fundamental identity. Finally, we review the potential of virtual worlds for altering our consciousness.
with Isa Gucciardi
Some people’s inner worlds are colored by the effects of unrecognized trauma, forgotten or denied experience and the disorganization this type of experience creates. Others’ inner worlds may expose them to a connection with something larger than their definition of self, which can be both inspiring and daunting. Depth Hypnosis adapts the shamanic journey into a hypnotherapeutic process to illuminate the unseen power held within the natural world to provide a safe and coherent departure point for the exploration of inner personal realities. Depth Hypnosis is a spiritual counseling process that synthesizes key principles of shamanism, Buddhism, hypnotherapy, energy medicine and transpersonal psychology. Depth Hypnosis’ adaptation of the shamanic journey makes the power of the inner shamanic cosmography that has been the purview of shamanic practitioners for millennia available to the modern seeker. As people are met exactly where they need to be met and as shamanic and energy medicine processes of healing are applied to inner experience, misconception and disorganized thinking are dispelled. People come to understand their own personal power better and so are better equipped to align with universal power in a way that is not overwhelming. Through this inner guidance, the coherence of the natural world is brought to bear on the way that people understand themselves and create their everyday reality. In this talk we will explore the role of the shamanic journey in traditional contexts and work experientially to understand how it can be adapted into the modern therapeutic setting to transform inner experience.
with Dr. Andrew Holocek
What is the relationship of virtual reality to lucid dreaming, and how can both mediums be used alleviate suffering? This presentation will explore the phenomenology of non-lucidity (experiential fusion), and how virtual reality can help us understand the core teachings of emptiness in the Buddhist tradition. Reification is at the heart of human suffering. By reifying an alternate reality (VR and hyper-lucid dreams) we can dereify waking reality, and point the way to the end of suffering by discovering the empty nature of all appearance. VR can help us unearth the transfer of power that takes place constantly as we unwittingly imbue waking reality with an ontological status it does not inherently have. We then suffer when that power boomerangs and we’re assaulted by the seemingly external forces of our lives – victims of our own projections. This talk will explore how we’ve lost our mind in this non-lucid power play: how we continually lose the essence of the mind (emptiness) in the display of the mind (form), a process that we can discern by studying the “double delusion” of the nighttime dream and the captivating force of virtual reality. Finding the essence in the display (emptiness in form) results in the Great Equanimity of awareness across all states of consciousness as professed by the wisdom traditions. This democracy of cognition reinstates the proper distribution of power, ownership, and responsibility -- and the freedom that ensues from that restoration. Virtual reality is a “stem cell” technology; lucid dreaming is an inner analog. If placed in the proper holding environment and nourished with the right view, VR and lucid dreaming can evolve into healthy mediums for psychological and spiritual growth.
with Dr. Jordan Quaglia
Virtual reality (VR) is designed to generate a convincing sense that people are somewhere other than where they physically are, despite knowledge otherwise. Many thinkers have noted parallels between such VR experience and lucid dreams, defined as dreams in which one knows they are dreaming. According to these parallels, this presentation highlights theory, findings, and implications from recent research on virtual lucidity (VL), a new construct similar to lucidity during dreaming, but regarding awareness that one is having a virtual experience. VL concerns the depth and breadth of this awareness, as well as the extent it affords regulatory monitoring and control. An initial empirical study of VL examined it in the context of a virtual threat scenario of walking, and being asked to step off, a wooden plank seemingly high above a city. Consistent with VL theory, lucidity in VR predicted lower fear and greater likelihood of stepping off the plank. Additionally, lucid dream experience and training predicted VL, and related outcomes, across a community sample as well as lucid dream trainees at a meditation retreat center. I discuss the potential validity and utility of VL, its relation to virtual presence, and examples of how it may inform the development and application of VR and related technologies.
In this talk, theoretical quantum physicist Dr. Amit Goswami will present the new conceptual paradigm and experimental evidence for the existence of God. Most religions agree on three aspects of God: 1) God has creative causal efficacy, a power often called downward causation; 2) There are subtle bodies (the vital energy body, the mind, and the supra-mental “soul” besides the material body; and 3) To be ethical is important.
Goswami will discuss indisputable scientific evidence for downward causation and the subtle bodies and delineate a science of ethics.
The primary aim of this lecture is to help the participant break free of a materialist view of reality to move towards the fascinating quantum experience of God. To this end, Goswami will introduce the idea of quantum activism and its primary tenet - how we must incorporate the new science in the evolution of ourselves and our societies.
Swami Sarvapriyananda has been appointed as Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York, and assumed his duties here on January 6, 2017. Prior to this, he served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California (VSSC) for 13 months, beginning on December 3, 2015. Swami joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1994 and received Sannyas in 2004. Before being posted to the VSSC’s Hollywood Temple, Swami served as an acharya (teacher) of the monastic probationers’ training center at Belur Math. He has served the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in various capacities including being the Vice Principal of the Deoghar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, Principal of the Shikshana Mandira Teacher Education College at Belur Math, and the first Registrar of the Vivekananda University at Belur Math. Swami holds degrees in Economics and Education; and, he also has an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree. At present he is pursuing a one-year non-degree graduate program at Harvard Divinity School, as a Nagral Fellow. He is eminently known around the world for his spiritual discourses - all of which are extremely popular sources of spiritual education on YouTube.
Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Director of Medical Virtual Reality at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. He is also a Research Professor with the USC Dept. of Psychiatry and at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. Over the last 25 years, Skip has conducted research on the design, development and evaluation of Virtual Reality systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment and rehabilitation across the domains of psychological, cognitive and motor functioning in both healthy and clinical
populations. This work has focused on PTSD, TBI, Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other clinical conditions. Some of his recent work has involved the creation of artificially intelligent virtual human (VH) patients that novice clinicians can use to practice skills required for challenging diagnostic interviews and for creating online virtual human healthcare guides. In spite of the diversity of these clinical R&D areas, the common thread that drives all of his work with digital technologies involves the study of how interactive and immersive Virtual Reality simulations can be usefully applied to address human healthcare needs beyond what is possible with traditional 20th Century tools and methods.
Sarah Hill Sarah Hill is the CEO of Healium, an interactive immersive media company. Healium escapes are virtual and augmented reality stories powered by brain patterns and heart rate from consumer wearables. Healium kits are in areas of acute, situational, and confined stress, trauma or pain. Hill spent more than 20 years as a television reporter when suddenly a series of panic attacks forced her to rethink her digital diet. Hill is a national Edward R. Murrow, NAB Service to America, National Sigma Delta Chi, and 12 time mid-America Emmy award-winning storyteller, she spent decades reporting about the world’s negativity and trauma in 5 continents. She started working with AR filters during live TV newscasts in 2011. Hill creates with a variety of XR inputs including BCI, heart rate variability, and respiration trackers. She’s passionate about the transition of storytelling to ‘story living’ and XR’s effect on wellbeing. An alum of the Missouri School of Journalism and former adjunct faculty, her reporting has taken her team around the globe capturing stories about the human spirit in the Amazon, UAE, Congo, Guatemala, Zambia, and China. StoryUP’s roots are in virtual travel for Veterans. In 2015, Hill’s team built a program called “Honor Everywhere”, that uses Virtual Reality to allow aging Veterans the opportunity to see their WWII, Vietnam, Korea, & Women’s Memorials.
Rizwan Virk A graduate of MIT and Stanford, Rizwan (“Riz”) Virk is a successful entrepreneur, angel investor, bestselling author, video game industry pioneer, and independent film producer. Virk is the founder Play Labs @ MIT (www.playlabs.tv) a startup accelerator for video game companies. His previously published books include: Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior (Bayview, 2013), which reached the top of Amazon’s business and spirituality/religious bestseller lists; Treasure Hunt: Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success (Watkins, 2017). Virk’s forthcoming book is Startup Myths and Models: Secrets They Don't Teach You at Stanford Business School (2020, Columbia University Press). Virk’s video games have included Tap Fish, which was downloaded over 50 million times, and games based on TV shows like Penny Dreadful and Grimm. Virk has been an investor and founder in many startups, including Telltale Games (creator of narrative games based on The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones), Disruptor Beam (creator of Star Trek: Timelines mobile game), Tapjoy and Discord. He has helped produced Thrive: What on Earth Will It Take?, Knights of Badassdom, the TV show The Outpost, and adaptations of the works of Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin.
Michael R. Heim, M.A., Ph.D. is the author of many scholarly articles and several books. His translation of Martin Heidegger’s book The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic was published in 1984 by Indiana University Press with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Heim wrote the first study of digital text with the book Electric Language: A Philosophical Study of Word Processing (Yale University Press, 1987). His award- winning book The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality was published in 1993 by Oxford University Press. A sequel Virtual Realism was also published by Oxford in 1998. Since 2017 a series of short ebooks began appearing on Amazon Kindle under the rubric Virtual Reality Metaphysics. Heim did graduate and post-graduate studies at the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, and the Freie Universität Berlin. For decades, he has taught in graduate programs throughout Southern California including the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Southern California, Art Center College of Design (Pasadena), and Mount Saint Mary’s University Los Angeles. He received the 1996 Great Teacher Award from the graduating class at Art Center.
Kenneth Rose, Ph.D., has been a professor of philosophy and religion for three decades. His degrees include an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University. He developed and lead the online course, “Wisdom from World Religions,” which is funded by a Templeton World Charity Foundation grant (https://wisdomfromworldreligions.com). His books include Yoga, Meditation, and Mysticism: Contemplative Universals and Meditative Landmarks, Pluralism: The Future of Religion, The Light of the Self: A Memoir of a Spiritual Awakening, and Edge of Awakening: Poems from the Borderline of Mind and Awareness. These books and his three Audible programs are available at: https://smile.amazon.com/Kenneth-Rose/e/B00B5J3ANO?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1574093203&sr=8-1
Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. holds degrees and certificates in transpersonal psychology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, comparative religion, hypnotherapy, and transformational healing. She has been a dedicated Buddhist practitioner for forty years and has spent over thirty years studying spiritual, therapeutic, and meditative techniques from around the world. Isa has worked with master teachers of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Sufism, as well as expert shamanic practitioners from a variety of traditions. Isa is the creator of Depth Hypnosis, a groundbreaking therapeutic model that has won rave reviews from psychotherapeutic and spiritual counselors alike. She is also the Founding Director of the Foundation of the Sacred Stream, a school for consciousness studies in Berkeley, California. Isa teaches and speaks nationally and internationally, and has published numerous articles, podcast episodes, videos, and the books Coming to Peace and Return to the Great Mother. She maintains a private practice with institutions and individuals in Depth Hypnosis and Coming to Peace processes. Isa speaks five languages and has lived in eleven countries. She is the mother of two children and lives with her partner in San Francisco.
Andrew Holecek has completed the traditional three-year Buddhist meditation retreat and offers seminars internationally on meditation, dream yoga, and the art of dying. He is the author of Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition; Meditation in the iGeneration: How to Meditate in a World of Speed and Stress; The Power and the Pain: Transforming Spiritual Hardship into Joy; the audio learning course Dream Yoga: The Tibetan Path of Awakening Through Lucid Dreaming, and his latest book Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. Dr. Holecek is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and has authored scientific papers. His work has appeared in Parabola, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, Utne Reader, Buddhadharma Magazine, Light of Consciousness, and many other periodicals. Andrew holds degrees in classical music, biology, and a doctorate in dental surgery.
Theoretical Quantum Physicist Dr. Amit Goswami, Ph.D., is a retired full professor from the University of Oregon’s Department of Physics where he served from 1968 to 1997. He is a pioneer of the new paradigm of science called “science within consciousness,” an idea he explicated in his seminal book, The Self-Aware Universe, where he also solved the quantum measurement problem elucidating the famous observer effect. Goswami has written several other popular books: The Visionary Window, Physics of the Soul, The Quantum Doctor, Creative Evolution, God is Not Dead, HowQuantum Activism Can Save Civilization, Quantum Creativity: Think Quantum, Be Creative, Quantum Economics: Unleashing the Power of an Economics of Consciousness. In his most recent book, The Everything Answer Book (April 2017), Goswami’s basic premise is that quantum physics is not only the future of science, but it is also the key to understanding consciousness, death, God, psychology, and the meaning of life. In short, quantum physics offers a theory of everything. In his private life, Goswami is a practitioner of spirituality and transformation. He calls himself a quantum activist. He appeared in the film What the Bleep Do We Know!? and its sequel Down the Rabbit Hole as well as the documentaries Dalai Lama Renaissance and the award-winning The Quantum Activist.
Jordan Quaglia, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Contemplative Psychology, Director of the Cognitive and Affective Science Lab, and Research Director for the Compassion Initiative in the Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. He received a BA from the University of Richmond, an MA from Naropa University, and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Since arriving to Naropa University in 2016, he has helped design Naropa University’s new concentration in Contemplative Neuroscience, and teaches courses such as Psychology and Neuroscience of Emotion, Cognitive Science, and Contemplative Neuroscience. He’s served as Panelist for multiple United Nations Day of Vesak conferences, Fellow and Senior Investigator for Mind and Life Summer Research Institute, and Contemplative Social Justice Scholar for Contemplative Mind in Society. His research is supported by funding from the Mind and Life Institute and John Templeton Foundation, and has been featured in leading scientific journals and books. Across his research program, he relies on a variety of tools, from neuroscientific measures to virtual reality, to study topics such as meditation, emotion regulation, and lucidity.
Joakim Vindenes is a PhD Candidate at the University of Bergen, Norway, where he is researching VR technologies. At his spare time, he runs Matrise — a blog focused on the intersections of VR, Consciousness, Science & Philosophy. Matrise has lately increased in popularity and discusses VR technology in relation to topics such as psychedelics, Hinduism, Existentialism, Meditation and Non-dual states.
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